Nearly 30 years after Honda’s founder started developing the product and after more than a dozen years of testing, the company best known for its cars and motorcycles is about to start delivering its first aircraft.
The Japan-based company this week is expected to receive a crucial Federal Aviation Administration certification of its first HondaJet, the last step before launching full production from its manufacturing hub and headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina, where it employs more than 1,000. A company announcement is expected Wednesday.
The business jet, with engine inlet and flap and vane assemblies produced by Long Island-based CPI Aerostructures Inc., can seat up to seven and lists for about $4.5 million. It will be reaching customers at least five years behind schedule. Honda says it has received more than 100 orders, primarily from customers in North America and Europe.
CPI Aero, which makes structural assemblies for military and civilian aircraft, won the HondaJet contract in 2011. In August, the Edgewood company said the HondaJet contract had a potential value of $70 million. In a presentation, CPI said that Honda expects to deliver more than 100 aircraft within 24 months after certification.
HondaJet’s model HA-420 is expected to be the first in a line of Honda aircraft. That could make the quality-conscious, price-competitive company a player in aviation since “anywhere Honda gets into, they tend to grab a significant market share fairly quickly,” said Wayne Plucker, who heads aerospace industry research at the consulting firm Frost & amp; Sullivan. Honda touts its plane as lighter, faster and more fuel-efficient than competitors that include U.S.-based Cessna and Embraer of Brazil.
Entering the aviation market was a goal of founder Soichiro Honda, and HondaJet’s development began several years before his death in 1991. Honda sent engineer Michimasa Fujino to the United States to design an experimental aircraft.
Fujino, now Honda Aircraft Co.’s CEO, brought innovation by positioning the engines above the wings rather than beneath them and drew inspiration for the porpoise-nose body design from a Salvatore Ferragamo high-heel shoe. The prototype flew in 2003. Fujino did not respond to requests for an interview.
With Ken Schachter